By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
A Naugatuck Valley League baseball season that was dominated by two teams ended in a tournament that didn’t feature either of them playing for the championship.
Woodland and St. Paul, which tied atop the league standings with 18-1 regular-season records after dealing each other their only defeats, both lost in the NVL quarterfinals May 22.
Naugatuck was the team that sent the No. 2-seeded Hawks packing in an emotional, 2-0 win in a nine-inning nail-biter that gave the Greyhounds a sense of revenge from their forfeit loss to Woodland earlier in May.
With a scoreless game in the top of the ninth, Naugy put its two leadoff runners on base with an infield single and a walk. A couple of Woodland miscues and an RBI single by Lucas McKenney allowed the Greyhounds to push across the only two runs of the game.
That finally gave support to pitcher Brady Evon, who scattered five hits with eight strikeouts over eight innings. Freshman Andrew Tyszka earned the save with a scoreless ninth.
McKenney and Matthew Kilmer, who had two singles, were the only ones to touch Woodland pitcher Michael Belcher. He struck out 13 over 8 2/3 masterful innings.
Zach Drewry singled, doubled and stole two bases for Woodland, which had several chances to score in late innings but succumbed to some base-running mistakes and Evon’s crafty pitching.
The momentum was short-lived for the Greyhounds, though, as eventual champion Holy Cross bounced Naugy with a 6-1 win in the semifinals May 24 at Municipal Stadium.
Naugatuck only managed three hits against Cross’ Logan Bessette. One was an infield single by Justin Stone, which combined with a few walks by Bessette to give Naugy its only run. Jibree Bartelle also had a hit.
The local squads are turning their attention to the state tournament. A hectic first-week schedule lines up the first round June 1, second round June 2 and quarterfinals June 5, all at the higher seed’s home field. Semifinals will be played June 8 at neutral sites, while the finals are set for June 11-12 at Palmer Field in Middletown.
Naugatuck’s 9-9 record in the regular season landed the Greyhounds the No. 27 seed in Class LL. They are scheduled to face No. 6 West Haven (14-4) in the first round with the winner set to face either No. 11 Hall or No. 22 Enfield the following day in the second round.
Woodland earned the No. 3 seed in Class M and received a unique draw. They are set to host No. 30 Seymour, a team Woodland narrowly beat twice in the regular season, in the first round. The winner will face another familiar NVL foe — either No. 14 Wolcott or No. 19 Watertown — in the second round the next day.